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10 Best Dream Movies of All Time

July 10, 2018
7 min read

Movies that deal with dreams. Why do we dream? What are these endless stories that engulf our subconscious while we are asleep? Many have tried to theorize the reasons behind dreaming but none have been successful decoding it. Freudians believe dreams are the unfulfilled desires of the conscious mind, which finds its way into the subconscious where it tries to fulfill itself. Some researchers say that it’s the absurdity of the idle brain and has absolutely nothing to do with memories. While science chooses to trust its lieutenants on the basis of facts, art thrives on the vividness of the dreams. Many literary pieces and paintings have been conjured on the lines of the dreams. In this particular scenario, how would cinema be left behind its other cousins? From the vault of the vastness, that Cinema is, we present the list of top movies about dreams. Dream on. You can also watch some of these movies about dreams on Netflix or Amazon Prime or Hulu.

10. Total Recall (1990) 

Dennis Quaid, just like a few other normal human beings, lives a normal life, with his beautiful wife for company. But at night, he gets these strange dreams about a mysterious lady in a mysterious place. Discouraged by everyone, upon asking about his dreams, he reaches out to Rekall, a company who specialises in planting memories for fantasy. But as the procedure starts, Quaid starts getting flashes of a subdued memory. And all of a sudden, his world does not seem to be the one he practically lived his entire life. Or so he believed. Based on Philip K Dick story, which incidentally served as a prequel to the ‘Minority Report’, ‘Total Recall’ was considered to be way ahead of its time.

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9. 8 1/2  (1963)

The visionary Federico Fellini’s masterpiece ’81/2′ is essentially about a movie  director who hits a creative roadblock, as he prepares for his next film. While ’81/2′ remains as one of the greatest films of all time, this features in this list because a portion of the movie deals with the protagonist’s dreams as he frantically searches for his motive to make the movie. As he loses himself in a myriad of memories, his search for the film that he wants to make and his inner struggle become synonymous. Partly semi-referential, ’81/2′ is  one of the most important works of cinema that’s ought to be studied.

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8. Brazil (1985)

Terry Gilliam, who was heavily influenced from the writings of George Orwell, came up with his own version about a dystopian society where bureaucracy takes the highest precedence over rest of the world.  ‘Brazil’ is a satirical commentary about an one world government, forcing its inhabitants to be assimilated into a singular society. It tells the story of Sam Lowry, who works under the aforementioned bureaucratic Govt and drives a single seater car, keeps dreaming about himself flying in a metallic armour along with a mysterious girl. His life takes a three sixty degree turn, when he actually meets the girl.

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7. Open Your Eyes (1997) 

Say, you’ve a perfect life with friends and family and you’re content with it. Suddenly an accident changes everything and leaves everyone that you loved, for dead. What you’ll do? Wouldn’t you give everything to  get back those precious moments? Directed by Alejandro Amenabar, this Spanish film tells the story of a disfigured man and his tryst to overcome his past, as his dreams keep showcasing fragments of it. Revered by critics and audiences alike for its intelligent story, it caught the attention of Tom Cruise who produced its equally successful American Remake – ‘The Vanilla Sky’.

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6. A Nightmare on the Elm Street (1984) 

Have you ever thought of your worst dreams coming alive? What if the worst of those, metamorphoses into a man so evil, that actual evil takes a backseat? What if your worst nightmare is Freddy Krueger? Universally acclaimed as the film that breathed life into the dying ‘slasher’ genre, this film tells the story of a man who stalks people in their dreams and eventually kills them, as he becomes stronger by their fear. The movie is particularly famous for its dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream sequence.

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5. Inception (2010)

When you speak of dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream sequence, can you leave ‘Inception’ out of your discussion? Directed by Christopher Nolan, it is an amalgamation of the genres sci-fi, mystery and heist. Explaining the movie is really a bad idea, as the movie keeps growing into an enormous dream sequence with layers in between yet brilliantly keeps the viewer engrossed into the complex plot. Starring a fine ensemble cast that boasts of the talents of Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy and Marion Cotillard, it became a critical and commercial success.

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4. The Wizard Of Oz (1939) 

Considered to be one of the most popular and loved children’s film of all time, it’s essentially about the vivid imagination of a young girl Dorothy. As she magically gets transferred from the farmlands of Kansas to the fantastical world of Oz, she sets on a journey of a lifetime. On her way, she meets and befriends all sorts of odd characters-  A scarecrow looking for brain, a tin man looking for a heart and a coward lion, who desperately needs courage. Over the years, this film has risen to the status of a cult, due to its simple yet highly entertaining way of storytelling.

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3. Waking Life (2001) 

‘Waking Life’ is more than a film. It’s about the many themes that one experiences in his/her lifetime, subtly hinting at the meaning of life. Although many of these don’t make sense, but to the subconscious it remains attached. Probably, in the later stages of life, it all starts to make sense. The unnamed protagonist, keeps meeting people in his dreams who are engrossed in their own discussions, remaining nonchalant to his existence. Soon he realizes that he too can manipulate his own dream. At first, it comes easy to him but soon he gets trapped in his own dreams. Directed as an animated film by Richard Linklater, ‘Waking Life’ is an unique take on the ever tantalizing concept of living life in an instant.

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2. Wild Strawberries (1957)

In a nutshell, ‘Wild Strawberries’ is about a man’s self discovery. A distinguished man of medicine, sets off on a journey to receive a doctorate that he had coveted for long, along with his pregnant daughter in law. On the route, they meet different groups of people who remind the man of his past. As he dreams of his past, he comes to term with his life, his lost love and his loneliness. Directed by the visionary Ingmar Bergman, ‘Wild Strawberries’ is a brilliant take on one’s retrospective at the fag end of life, about the path less travelled.

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1. Mulholland Drive (2001)

Whether it’s a fantasy world or a utopia or a city of dreams, ‘Mulholland Drive’ remains open to many interpretations. And the bigger question stays for the audience to decipher in their own way – Who is Diane Selwyn? What happened to Betty? What does the blue box with the blue key open? All these questions start tumbling down the moment ‘Betty’ wakes up and finds herself turning into ‘Diane Selwyn’. Considered as one of the greatest cinematic mysteries of all time, David Lynch’s ‘Mulholland Drive’ is a dream that refuses to get over.

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